This post was originally published on the Studio [Y] blog. It was written in November 2014, following a gathering of 15 alternative education practitioners at the Community Knowledge Exchange Gathering.
When I began my role with Studio Y a year and a half ago, my boss, Director of Studio Y Hamoon Ekhtiari seemed to be a mastermind when it came to coming up with new slogans for Studio Y. There was “moonshotting” — an aspiration that encouraged Fellows to reach for the stars when building initiatives with and for community. Then there was “#MakeItBetter” — a call to action, encouraging us all to maintain agency in the world around us (if we see something that isn’t up to our standards, we have the capacity to #MakeItBetter!). While a couple of these slogans came and went, one in particular stuck with me.
Every time we started a new project, developed a new initiative, or delivered run-of-the-mill programming, we’d check ourselves: “who with?” we’d ask.
In the world of systems thinking, “who with?” encourages us to think about the multiplicity of other actors engaged in our systems. In the world of entrepreneurial thinking, “who with?” encourages us to consider our team, our customers, and our partners. And in the world of community development, “who with?” asks us to consider who might be left out of a system, who we might seek to include in the future. Put simply, the spirit of “who with”, encourages us to ask “who’s with us? who’s beside us, in front of us, and behind us?”
Just one week ago today, Studio Y convened a gathering of of twenty — a Community Knowledge Exchange Pre-Gathering (CKX) — which brought together staff from organizations across this country that work with young leaders and innovators every day. It was our attempt to answer the question of “who with?” in the work we do at Studio Y of creating broader systems change in the systems of work and learning.
The guest list included folks from Next Up and City Studio from the West coast, the Pond-Deshpande Centre and 21 Inc. from the East, and a host of others from the centre of the nation (as well as those that span across it): Loran Scholars, Meal Exchange, Jeanne Sauvé Public Leadership Program, Social Innovation Generation, Laidlaw Foundation, McConnell Foundation, and Engineers Without Borders.
The goals of the meeting:
- Connect as practitioners
- Learn from one another
- Share with one another
- Collaborate together
Participants from the gathering from Engineers Without Borders, Loran Scholars, Meal Exchange, McConnell Foundation, Pond-Deshpande Centre, and Social Innovation Generation.
By day’s end we had introduced our programs to one another, gone deep on topics of universal importance (definitions of leadership, impact measurement frameworks, alumni engagement strategies, and plans for scale and expansion), and had brainstormed potential avenues for further engagement together.
While the path forward remains to be charted, some of the most popular avenues for collaboration amongst the group were as follows:
- Sharing with one another
- Sharing our intellectual assets with one another (curriculum, selection practices, outreach practices, impact frameworks)
- Sharing our physical assets with one another (sharing space with one another, sharing airmiles, sharing tickets to each other’s events)
- Sharing our human assets with one another (staff swaps, participant swaps, advisory board swaps!)
- Collaborating together to build new common structures
- Shared curriculum or shared programming
- Shared evaluation framework / collective impact strategy
- Shared project fund for program participants
- Shared summit (bringing together the program participants, alumni, and staff from a variety of programs)
- Having fun together
- Dance parties
- Water balloon fights
- Some kind of friendly competition!
An Alternate Universe
In an alternate universe, these organizations would see each as competitors in the race for Canada’s top talent. We would hoard our proprietary assets as we vied to create the nation’s best curriculum, evaluation framework, outreach strategy, alumni engagement plan and mental health response framework to best serve Canada’s top young leaders and innovators.
But this is a new era of collaboration. This is an era of collaboration in which Community Foundations of Canada and the Ontario Trillium Fund band together to host CKX, an event that brings over 400 people together — folks from the private, not-for-profit, and public sector (and everything in between!) to discuss how we might better share knowledge, collaborate together, and build a more equitable, thriving and sustainable future.
Because the scale of the challenges we all face are too great for any individual, organization, or province to do it alone.
As we continue on this journey of helping to shape the future of work and learning in our corner of the world, we will continue to ask ourselves “who with?”. If you believe that you might be able to support these efforts, or would like to get engaged, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, one of my teammates, or one of the other programs engaged in Wednesday’s gathering. We’d love to hear from you.